‘A Christmas Story’ Mom Melinda Dillon Dies at 83

Melinda Dillon
United Artists / Everett Collection

Melinda Dillon who is known for her roles in films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and A Christmas Story has died. She was 83 years old.

The actress reportedly died on January 9, according to an obituary listing shared by her family. Born October 13, 1939, Dillon would have been 84 this fall. Dillon’s last onscreen appearances were in 2007 for the film Reign Over Me and the television series Heartland in which she featured for three episodes.

Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin in 'A Christmas Story'

A Christmas Story (Credit: © MGM / Courtesy: Everett Collection)

The two-time Oscar-nominated actress rose to fame with her role in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind in which she played a mother whose son is abducted by aliens. The part earned her the first nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She earned a nomination again in 1982 for her part in the film Absence of Malice which also featured Sally Field and Paul Newman.

Apart from Heartland, Dillon appeared in a number of television shows and episodes. Titles among her TV credits include The Defenders, East Side/West Side, Bonanza, Men at Law, The Jeffersons, Sara, Space, The Twilight Zone, The Client, Picket Fences, Tracey Takes On…The Lyon’s Den, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Of course, Dillon will forever be remembered as Mother Parker, the matriarch of 1983’s holiday classic A Christmas Story in which she starred alongside Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley, and Ian Petrella. Other notable films of Dillon’s include Harry and the Hendersons, The Prince of Tides, Magnolia, Bound for Glory, and Slap Shot among others.

Apart from her onscreen work, Dillon was also known for her stage work for which she earned a Tony playing Honey in the original Broadway production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? She had been married to the late actor Richard Libertini from 1963 until they divorced in 1978. They had one son together.